"Now that you're done getting your shots, let's go to McDonald's" is a phrase I frequently hear in my office.
Parents are rewarding children with food far too often. No where is this more common than at some schools where birthdays and holidays are celebrated with treats. A patient of mine recently lamented that she was missing two classmates' birthdays being celebrated that day with cake and candy. Two in the same day!
With more than 30 kids in the classroom and needing to squeeze in all the summer birthdays, the patient received a birthday treat almost once a week. This must stop. I'm all for celebrations, but we need a strong dose of common sense when it comes to our children's experience with food.
After a day of first grade, my two six-year-olds couldn't be happier to show me their new pencil toppers (tiny rubbery gizmos that go on the end of your pencil and look like some sort of animal) that they received from a classmate to help celebrate turning another year older. They just don't miss the cake. There is a time and place for celebratory foods, but it is not weekly in the classroom.
President Obama signed the 2010 Hunger Free, Healthy Kids Act late last year. The passage of this bill was highlighted in a local newspaper article. One aspect of the legislation is a limit on school-based celebrations with unhealthy foods. With our nation needing to find ways to reduce extra calories in our children's diets, this is a much needed step. The bill also brings many more children access to healthier school breakfasts and lunches.
If children are to be rewarded for putting up with shots or getting their grades up at the end of the semester, why not a trip to the book store or even the library if finances are tight? We must stop rewarding children with unhealthy food. I admit that on occasion my family celebrates with food. When it is a family birthday we have cake and ice cream. Most dinners, though, end without dessert. It is not a nightly occurrence and when it does happen, we don't make a big deal about it.
I encourage you to talk with your child's school about limiting classroom treats or walk through to see what they are offering your child in the vending machines? What, if anything, will you send to school with your child when it is their birthday? How are you celebrating without food?